Jones, a former U. S. Marshal and retired Birmingham Police Department detective, died several years ago, probably never knowing the tremendous impact he had on his nephew’s life.
“I wanted to be like him,” said Manners. “J. W. was a straight talker and he walked straight. He would tell you like it was. On the other end, he was one of those guys who was very supportive and helpful to his family and others.”
Manners said his uncle wasn’t afraid of hard work, nor did he mind keeping his young nephew busy and productive.
“When visiting my grandmother Susie Manners, my uncle would always find odd jobs for me to do,” said Manners. “Without me knowing, my uncle J.W. was teaching me the value of hard work and its rewards.”
Manners said Jones was an all around good guy. He’d go the extra mile to help anyone.
“In one aspect, I’m like him,” said Manners. “I like to help folks.”
The folks Manners speaks applies to all ages. However, he is partial to the younger ones.
Manners, 53, has been a Jacksonville police officer for the past 30 years, over half his life. He began work right after receiving a criminal justice degree from Jacksonville State University. He could have retired five years ago, but he has not found the right time.
For the past 15 years, he’s been the school resource officer for the Jacksonville City School System. He’s currently assigned to Kitty Stone Elementary.
“I started as the SRO at the high school in 1998 when the new campus opened,” he said. “My expertise is with the high school but my heart is with the little ones. It’s special being there with the kids and being a part of their lives and a part of the school. During the school day I think I learn more from them than they do from me. I miss being with the high school, but I catch up with them at ball games and around town.”
He recently created a Facebook page especially for faculty, staff, and parents of Kitty Stone students. It’s called Officer Duff’s List.
“It’s a page that has information I post in regards to traffic issues and other things that that are important,” he said. “Most of it relates to arrival and dismissal times. We have a good system for both car riders and bus riders. We must be accountable for all of them. It’s all about safety for our kids.”
Everyone at Kitty Stone calls him Officer Duff; however, there have been a few times he’s been called Uncle Duff. His niece, Morgan Manners, called him Uncle Duff one day at school and some followed her lead.
Manners is a founding member of TAASRO (The Alabama Association of Resource Officers). He attends a TAASRO conference every summer to exchange ideas and train with others, including other school resource officers, school administrators, and counselors. Some juvenile probation officers have attended.
“We have some of the nation’s leading experts present at the conference,” he said. “The positive aspect of the conference is the networking with the experts, and other attendees. We come back recharged and ready to go back to our schools”
Manners is also a part of NASRO, (National Association of School Resource Officers).
“At the conference we have time to network with other SROs,” he said, “Let’s say I talk to an officer down in Dothan and they’re having a similar problem. I can share my solution with them or vice versa.”
Manners said the thing he enjoys most about his job is being in the classroom and presenting classes about drug prevention, crime prevention, or other topics.
“It’s a good opportunity to talk to them about those things,” he said. “They seem to enjoy it. They learn a lot.”
Manners does consulting work for Jacksonville State University for events such as ball games and concerts.
He likes to garden, play golf and cycle. One summer he rode over 1000 miles. He said he needs to do more of all of them, but can’t find the time. He enjoys attending church at Bonny Brook Baptist and is an avid Alabama fan.
He attends a lot of after-school functions which pulls him away from his family. Any spare time he can find is spent with them.
“Since Sandy Hook, everybody gauges everything from that,” he said. “It was a tragedy. Sandy Hook had a school resource officer at one time, but didn’t have one that day.”
Manners said as far as he knows, there has not been an active shooter case where the school had an assigned SRO on campus.
“If your community’s not safe, people aren’t going to live there,” he said. “And the kids aren’t going to learn if they don’t feel safe. That’s one thing I’m proud of. Our community and its leaders look out for our kids. The police chief, mayor, council, and the school superintendent want to keep SROs in the schools.”
Manners said the police department is currently in the middle of a manpower shortage. Retirements and officers changing jobs have limited the number of officers on the force.
Manners is involved with the Northeast Alabama Crisis Response Team, a peer driven critical response team out of the chaplain’s office at Regional Medical Center in Anniston. The team is an ICISF (International Critical Incident Stress Foundation) approved team.
“We go out and try to assist first responders, medical professional, volunteers, educators, and others who have responded to a critical incident,” he said. “We work with these professionals to try and get them through difficult times, especially when there’s been a fatality. Getting over a critical incident takes time. We give them coping tips and explain what to expect. We’re kind of like an emotional band aid. We want to help those folks return to pre incident levels of function.”
Manners loves his hometown. He was born and reared here. His parents are Lee and Jetta Manners. His sister, Nedra, lives in Rome, Ga., and his brother, Keaton, lives in Ragland.
He and his wife, the former Karen Phillips, have three children.
Alicia Vasquez and her husband James live in Huntsville where she is a nurse and he is a school counselor. They have a son, Jameson, and are expecting another son in November. Anna Leigh Manners has a degree in education from JSU. She’s currently a pharmacy tech at CVS. Amy Manners is a student physician at the Alabama College of Osteopathic Medicine in Dothan. She will graduate medical school with the class of 2017.
Contact Margaret at firstname.lastname@example.org.